Selfie got a double feature this week due to the mercy killing of Manhattan Love Story, so the show used its full hour to prove that Henry (John Cho) is in need of just as much help as Eliza (Karen Gillan) is when it comes to socializing — something that really makes the relationship between the two of them work so well.
Just like Hera noted in her review of “Un-Tag My Heart,” Selfie isn’t just a show about trying to fix Eliza and her dependence on social media. It’s also focused on the vices that John Cho’s Henry has and p,rimarily, the relationship that forms between these two slightly strange and socially alienated co-workers. It’s just that the show has been marketed on the back of Gillan’s character and her gimmicky social media use.
So when Henry and Eliza are invited to a retreat by Sam Saperstein (David Harewood) at his estate, Henry arrogantly assumes that Eliza’s invite is because she’s been invited as his plus one. And while he’s not completely wrong, with Eliza indeed being there for the priming before his promotion, the invite wasn’t out of courtesy. Instead, she was invited because of Sam’s insight that Henry, the type-A workaholic and no-fun character that he is, comes alive when he’s with Eliza. While Selfie has been promoting itself as a show that has Henry fixing Eliza, “Even Hell Has Two Bars” explicitly shows us the difference, already, that Eliza has had on Henry.
Before he completely unravels with the changing of the schedule, Eliza tells Henry: “You have to be able to go with the flow.” Henry’s a meticulous planner (he’d been learning how to ride a horse for three years preparing for a visit to this estate), and while Eliza challenges him on this in ways that he’s uncomfortable with, it’s clear to see that it’s a change for the better. Selfie isn’t afraid to look at the vulnerability of its characters, and although it’s painful watching Henry yell at Eliza, and all too easy to see the grief on his face when he thinks that the weekend he’s spent years mentally preparing for has been ruined, the Henry that emerges from the lake experiences a change for the better.
He strides into the dining room with his shirt un-tucked and his heart exposed, and he makes an earnest speech off the top of his head that’s full of passion. Something that, all too often, he dismisses as being unprofessional. Eliza and Henry are two characters that, due to their respective bouts of loneliness, have adjusted with somewhat reclusive ways of compensating. Eliza retreats to social media, while Henry is a meticulous (to say the least) worker. They’re both stuck in ways that were brought about to cope with unsatisfactory situations, and now, through their friendship, they’re challenging each other on them — something that’s difficult when you’re as stubborn as the two of them clearly are.
The second episode of the night, “Never Block Cookies,” is a good carry on of “Even Hell Has Two Bars” and its quest to acknowledge Henry’s flaws, but it isn’t nearly as good. Again, though, John Cho excels in showing Henry’s frustration at having his problems addressed, and, at least in my memory, I can’t remember another instance of a sitcom character shooting down casual sex in its usual plot as a cure for all ills. It’s not about then shaming the people that do enjoy casual sex, but it’s so much more interesting to have people of different backgrounds and morals being shown on TV. Despite some of the more lukewarm freshman sitcoms debuting this network season, there has been a real leap for diversity within ABC through Selfie, Black-ish and Cristela. Diversity makes for better drama, more humor, and stronger shows overall.
Selfie is funny, heartwarming, and underneath it all, a little poignant, too. But mostly, and overwhelmingly, Selfie is hugely joyful. Despite the differing levels of social media that its main characters choose to use, Selfie, every week (and for hopefully many more weeks), shows us two characters that connect and challenge each other in equal measures of both humor and pain, through all types of mediums. Change isn’t easy, and Selfie seems to be consistently looking at just how hard it truly is.
NOTES I WISH COULD BE IN EMOJI FORM ALREADY
- Eliza on Michelle Obama: “The first lady of non-stop riding my jock.”
- “I’m not having fun!” Henry is me, at every house party I’ve ever been to.
- Selfie is at The Mindy Project levels of romantic, you guys: “You know, I can’t help but notice that you’re a lot more lifelike around her.” And in a direct reference to My Fair Lady: “I have grown accustomed to your face.”
- Eliza on her Instagram photo of her and Henry (and their horse): “It got zero likes. So I’m deleting it.” CUE HENRY LIKING THE PHOTO.
- And talking about that horse, and the romantic trajectory of Cho’s character, he himself pointed out the important nature of that scene in a recent KoreAm interview. “Cho says he doesn’t often get to participate in stories that involve what he calls “American mythology.” He racks his brain, trying to think if he’s ever seen an Asian American guy ride a horse on TV before.” “Even Hell Has Two Bars” was a truly wonderful episode of television.
- For the second episode Charmonique was back (“It’s like, I want people to be happy, but on the other hand, no I don’t.”) and she was bird calling through the phone! Samm Levine was also back as Terrence, the son-in-law to David Harewood’s Sam, which made the episode a little flatter than the first.
- “We’re like brother and sister… Maybe cousins.” John Cho is already too good at looking a little bit in love with Eliza, especially when he pulled that waist grab. That got a big ol’ heart eyed emoji from me. (And speaking of emojis, covering Cho’s skinny-dipping form with a winky emoji was incredible.)
- “If you don’t like animals, you’re racist.”
- Oh, and that lifesize cardboard cut-out of Cho. I need it.